Editor’s Note: Mark Thabit is presenting Ahead of the Curve: Implementing a Paid, Earned & Owned Strategy at the PRSA 2014 International Conference on Monday, Oct. 13, from 11:45 a.m. – 1 p.m. The following is a guest post previewing his session.*
Media companies have a revenue problem. Unfortunately, the solution isn’t more traffic. In 2011, a major newspaper chain found that a 20 percent increase in traffic boosted digital ad revenue by a disappointing 2 percent.
That same year, The New York Times had fewer than 1 million print subscribers and 30 times as many online readers. Still, print generated 80 percent of its ad revenue.
Probably since the dawn of mass media, public relations professionals have relied on the credibility and amplification that earned media placements provide. Even in 2014, third-party expert content lifts brand familiarity 88 percent more than branded content and 50 percent more than user reviews. It delivered similar lifts in brand affinity and purchase consideration.
Despite all this good news, earned media’s value comes only when it’s seen, which has become increasingly difficult as more and more brands and people become what is essentially media companies. Easily accessible content and finite amounts of attention mean that you need to produce terrific content and, just as importantly, distribute it widely to your target audiences.
Redefining mutually beneficial
Traditional media and PR have always had a symbiotic relationship. Traditional media has the reach, and public relations has experts, insights and stories that made the publications worth reading. No money need be exchanged in this partnership because both had what the other needed.
With media companies scuffling financially and PR pros needing to gain visibility, the solution of merging earned and paid media has grown in popularity.
When it comes to native advertisements (often referred to as sponsored content) versus banner ads, there’s no contest. Native ads get 53 percent more views, raise purchase intent 18 percent and brand affinity 9 percent.
Naysayers might question the share-ability of a “masque-ad,” but data shows that one-third of people would share a native ad. That’s more than 50 percent more than who would share a display ad (19 percent).
It’s not just brands champing the bit to get into this game. Traditional and new media publishers from mommy blogs to The Washington Post and BuzzFeed have adopted paid media at a furious rate. Even the venerable The New York Times joined the fun. In the second quarter of 2014, The Times saw its digital ad revenue jump 3.4 percent over the previous year thanks in large part to native advertising.
What are the options?
Paid media comes in many forms and for many budgets. You can spend a relative pittance to promote content on social media or tens of thousands of dollars to get featured in an esteemed traditional media publication.
Here are a few types:
- Paid syndication – Often seen in “From Around the Web” widgets, paid syndication provides a list of links to related content. Brands showcase their top owned content and create an enticing headline to earn your clicks.
- Paid integration – If you look carefully at some of your favorite publications, you may notice that some stories, have a slightly different look on the site’s page or have some form of “sponsored content” written at the top. Brands create this owned media according to the publication’s standards and pay the publication for a valuable spot on its webpage.
- Paid co-creation – Some publications have an in-house team that creates content after a brand approaches them. This takes the owned media element out of the equation, but it’s not quite earned either. The publication may have had no plans to create content on that specific subject, but did so because they received compensation.
The benefit of having an in-house team create the content is the publication can better ensure accuracy and meet editorial standards. An example of this is The New York Times recent story about women in prison, which was sponsored by Netflix’s “Orange Is the New Black.”
How merged media succeeds
Going the native advertising route helps brands extend their message in a crowded content world where nine in 10 brands have an owned media channel. A “build it and they will come strategy” no longer works.
Brands need to create content for each point through the purchase funnel. While owned content continues to excel at nurturing customers in the consideration and purchase stages, paid media has become the go-to for reaching customers in the awareness stage.
As such, brands going the native advertising route need to create a proper distribution plan. An increasingly popular way to extend the reach of paid, owned and earned media is native advertising on social.
Spending on native social ads has risen from $1.2 billion in 2012 to a projected $3.1 billion in 2014. By 2017, it’s projected to reach $5 billion, a more than 400 percent increase in five years.
The ability to target these ads and to extend the reach and life of your content has made paid social ads an integral part of the process. Of course, you need to track and measure the results with reliable software in order to measure your success and inform strategies moving forward.
A solution for the long-term?
As spending in paid media increases and audiences show an enthusiasm or at least a willingness to accept this new world, native advertising has become a realistic solution for struggling media companies.
As content marketers face their own challenges in a digital world, it will be the ones who accept this new pay-to-play strategy when it comes to earned media and amplification. Those who don’t may soon feel the same struggles as the dying newspapers.
Join Mark Thabit’s Ahead of the Curve: Implementing a Paid, Earned & Owned Strategy at the PRSA 2014 International Conference for an in-depth look at how putting a paid, earned and owned media strategy in place, you can gain maximum results that drive client sales. In his session, you’ll take a look at the current state of media, and understand why incorporating advertising and marketing techniques into your PR campaigns is a “must.”
Mark Thabit is the senior vice president, marketing and product management at Vocus. He joined the team in 2014 after 23 years of sales and marketing experience in the technology arena. Mark helps guide the global product vision and build the Vocus brand in the marketplace, as well as oversees the development of integrated demand generation plans that drive leads, acquire customers and increase customer retention across product lines. Follow him on Twitter @MarkThabit.
* This is a sponsored post.